Sunday, May 25, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Tempest (1928)

“Comrade you are living in a fool’s paradise.”

            There are some romantic films whose love stories I will never understand. What I do not understand the most is how the guy just takes crap from the woman and still loves her. For example, Gone With the Wind. Scarlett was a bitch on wheels. She was not a proper wife for 1860s America and she chewed men up and spit them out as if they were just old chewing gum. Yet Rhett loved her and married her and put up with all her obnoxious lusting for Ashley and money. It was not until the end that Scarlett knew she truly loved Rhett and by that time she had completely turned him away. What is it with men going back to girls that just push them away? Seriously, men need to get the hint that women are pains in the asses and just play with their emotions. This is coming from a woman who in certain ways is a cold hard bitch when it comes to love and does not and would never spit men out like old chewing gum. Anyway… in the 1928 silent film Tempest, a man is lead to near ruin by a woman who toys with his emotions and desires.
            Russian soldier Ivan Markov (John Barrymore) is a sergeant in the lower ranks of the military. He hopes to make a command position and climb the ranks of the army. But his class as a peasant gives him great obstacles. One night as he is reading a peddler comes to his window asking for water. Ivan gives the peddler water and the peddler offers him a cigarette. Ivan asks the peddler if they know each other somehow. The peddler replies that they do not know each other yet and that Russia will need peasant born leaders.
            Ivan was up all night reading and fell asleep at his desk. His friend Bulba comes to wake him up to bring him to the stables. A group of soldiers flocks around someone. When they pull back the peddler is revealed. He has a flyer informing all those who look at it that they need to be woken against the czar and to join a socialist party. The following day Ivan is commissioned for rank. Princess Tamara comes to see her father, the General. Ivan sees her and is very taken with her. She looks at his performance and physical records and asks if such a perfect man can be alive. Unfortunately Tamara is engaged to the Captain.
            The next day while out in the river, Ivan sees a soldier carrying women’s clothing. When asked, the soldier says he took them from two women on the other side of the river. Ivan takes the clothes to the women. The clothes happen to belong to the princess. He tells her he did not take the clothes he was just bringing them back. When the princess comes closer Ivan takes her in his arms and kisses her. Tamara threatens to tell her father about his indiscretion.
            Ivan makes Lieutenant. He is a bit surprised considering Tamara’s threat. The General invites him to Tamara’s birthday party, his first formal party as a lieutenant. The General really likes Ivan considering him as a son. He gives the new lieutenant his own epaulets the first ones he ever received. Ivan goes to the party but he does not fit anywhere. He dances with the princess but she mocks him for being a peasant who will never climb the social ladder. In despair from the princess’s comments Ivan gets drunk. He goes to her room and leaves her his tags and writes on them “I Love You” signed with his name. He falls asleep in her bed. When Tamara comes back and finds him in her bed she rings for help. The General and the Captain come. Ivan is stripped of his rank, sent back with the soldiers, and punished to five years hard labor.
            The peddler finds Ivan in jail and shows him the same paper again. This time Ivan thinks about what the peddler says. Tamara comes to see him. She gives him the tags back. To make her angry Ivan says that he had left them for her maid. Tamara calls him a swine peasant. He responds that he is proud of his peasantry. For his talking back to the princess he is sent to solitary confinement.
            Sometime later the Captain comes to tell Ivan that his name has been stripped from the prison records and that men are needed at the front but he will be left behind in the jail because of his comments to him and the princess. When Tamara asks if Ivan is going to the front the Captain lies to her promising that Ivan will be taken care of. Ivan eventually goes crazy. He begins to hallucinate as if he was fighting at the front with his fellow soldiers and also the princess laughing at him.
            The war is over and the people of Russia are rebelling against the aristocracy and the wealthy. Princess Tamara goes into hiding. All the wealthy and aristocracy are being stripped of their clothes and possessions by the peasants. All of the ranking officers are put to death in front of machine gun. Tamara disguises herself to look for her father but gives herself away when she runs up to one of her father’s friends. A peasant grabs her and takes her to a room where the people of her class are being judged by the peddler and Ivan. She is brought before the peddler and Ivan. For a while Ivan just stares at her and then commands that she go back to prison. He tells Tamara that they are now equals since there is no more aristocracy. Ivan sees that she is wearing his tags that she has cared for him all this time.
            The peddler hears about Ivan and Tamara kissing. Ivan tries to stop the General from being killed but it is too late. The General says that his Russia is dead he is glad to be dying with it. He asks Ivan to take care of Tamara. The peddler sees this scene. He writes out a form to have Ivan arrested for treason. Ivan goes to the peddler. He sees how wrong the peddler was condemning these people to die when he has no such authority to do so. They get into a fight. Ivan kills the peddler with his gun. He takes the note the peddler had written and writes “do not disturb” on it ripping the top part off and hands the note on the door. Ivan orders his friend to bring Tamara, they are heading for the boarder to leave Russia.
            Tempest was an alright film. The story was decent. I just did not like how Ivan fell for a woman who at first did not care for him and then all the sudden the woman loved him. The character of Tamara would have been better if she had been just the tempest and the femme fatale and did not come back at the end as Ivan’s lover. John Barrymore’s acting was very good compared to his earlier films I have seen. He was not as over the top he toned his acting. The direction was actually really good. The opening scene pans over a small town, well actually it is a miniature of the town. The camera pans back and forth and then zooms in on the peddler walking through the snow covered streets. That was really cool. Tempest is available to view on Youtube and Netflix. I am not sure the Youtube version is but the one on Netflix was sped up and it looked silly in several scenes. Only watch Tempest if you are a John Barrymore fan.